Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Memories? Splendid!

This is me acknowledging that I haven/t written anything in a month.  This is me moving on.

So.  A long, long time ago, I started hanging out with this boy right before winter break during my freshman year in college.  We spent a lot of time messaging each other on AIM (nobody texted yet, and he didn't even get a cell phone till years later) and getting to know one another.  I visited him during break, and he introduced me to his favorite movie, The Blues Brothers, which I had surprisingly never seen.  We continued talking throughout break, and when I got back to campus for the spring semester, we made our relationship official.  Ten years later, we just celebrated our anniversary with a trip to the Chicago Art Institute and a show at Second City.
Recreating a masterpiece at the Art Institute.  Obviously.

Seeing as how this relationship was still very new at the time, this boy still felt the need to woo me on our first Valentine's Day.  (For the record, he still tries to woo me every once in awhile!)  He asked me the super obvious, but still sweet, question of what my ideal date would be.  I answered him honestly: 

I kid!  I kid!  I told him it would be having Italian or Chinese food (my two favorite cuisines) for dinner and seeing Led Zeppelin (my favorite band) in concert in San Diego (my favorite city in the US).

Valentine's Day was on a Saturday that year, so we planned to celebrate on the actual holiday.  My roommate and I went shopping and picked out a snazzy new outfit for me to wear - a pair of black pants with thin red pin-striping and a black wrap shirt with a red sparkly cami underneath.  The idea was that I could wear the outfit again to events other than Valentine's dates.  We went back to the dorm where I spent way too long trying to straighten and smooth my frizzy curls.  I had no idea what the plan was for the evening, but I was ready for anything!

The landline (we still had those back then!) in our room rang as someone from the front desk called to tell me I had a visitor.  He couldn't have picked me up at room, because I lived in an all-girls dorm, and my room was protected by no fewer than 4 secure doors, otherwise I'm sure he would have made the trip to my door.

As we drove off campus, he told me that unless we had wanted to eat dinner at 4pm or 10pm, all the nice Italian restaurants in town were booked, and he hadn't found a "fancy" Chinese restaurant in town, so he hoped I would be okay with Japanese food.  I assured him that would be fine, and we pulled into one of our local Japanese restaurants.  

I had only had teppanyaki (wah-cha-cha food, in my family - an onomatopoetic phrase to describe the sound of the chef cooking your food) once before, and I was excited to be seated at a teppan table that night.  Of course since it was Valentine's Day, the restaurant was crowded.  Teppan tables that usually sat 8 people were crammed with 12 patrons all expecting their dinner and a show.  To our left sat a couple in their early to mid-thirties.  They were married, and we later found out (read: overheard) that they had a couple kids at home with a babysitter who was charging them extra because it was Valentine's Day (rude).  They started bickering long before we were seated next to them, and the close proximity of strangers who could hear every word of their conversation did nothing to deter them from picking at one another for the duration of the meal.  

The couple to our left looked to be in their late teens/early twenties.  They seemed pleasant enough... until it came time to order.  Despite the fact that the guy had specifically requested they sit at a teppan table, neither partner felt compelled to order from the teppanyaki menu.  He ordered chicken teriyaki, and she ordered shrimp tempura.  Luckily I was still on my best behavior on this fancy date in this new relationship, otherwise eyes would have been rolling and sarcastic comments would have been stage whispered.  Watching the chef prepare your food is a pretty entertaining part of the meal in a place like that, but when you order from the regular dinner menu and don't show an appropriate amount of love for the onion volcano, you need to rethink your restaurant selection.  Despite the lackluster table neighbors, and our pathetic chopstick skillz (Yes, with a Z. Duh.), we managed to have a great time and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

After dinner we headed to our next location, which was still unknown to me.  He made a cute little joke that even though we were heading west, no part of our date was actually going to take place in San Diego, but we could pretend if I wanted.  We ended up at Parkland College at the Staerkel Planetarium.  The planetarium offers the typical star show fare, but until a couple years ago, they also did laser light shows.  It just so happened that on that particular Valentine's Day, they were showing a Led Zeppelin laser light show!  I was ridiculously thrilled about that.  The planetarium also did Pink Floyd and The Who shows, but it seemed like fate that it happened to be Led Zeppelin on that night.  It was so dorky and so silly and so perfect.  

After that we went back to his place for dessert, where I found out he had made me brownies.  No boy had ever baked for me before (and come to think of it, the only thing he's baked me since then was a loaf of bread), and it was sweet (pun intended).  The whole night was so well planned and so thoughtful that to this day, I refer to it as the best date ever.

Since dinner out on our first Valentine's Day proved to be crowded and full of unpleasant people, we started a new tradition the next year.  Now we take turns making each other a nice dinner.  We eat it at the table instead of in front of the TV.  There's often more than one course and definitely more than two food groups.  There's music playing in the background.  He usually sticks with simple food prepared well - he knows I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl.  Also, the year he made whole trout, I had to cover the head of mine with a napkin, because delicious as it was, I don't like being able to look my entree in the eye whilst I consume it.  I usually get in a little bit over my head, and try to do something extravagant as evidenced by last year's meal.

Spending a cozy quiet Valentine's Day at home is perfect for us since we celebrate Christmas, our anniversary, Valentine's Day, and both of our birthdays in four consecutive months.  We typically go somewhere fancier for our anniversary, when it's less likely that reservations will be so hard to book.  This is one of our traditions that I really cherish, and I hope it's one that we continue for a long time.  Though I won't argue with the man if he wants to take me to a Led Zeppelin reunion show or to San Diego for Valentine's Day in the future!

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